Using computer mice more than 20 hours per week is associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Classic computer mice force users into a pronated forearm position, placing stress on the nerves of the carpal tunnel (a sheath in the wrist through which tendons and nerves pass through). The PenClic R2 is an unconventional mouse that aims to relieve users from such strain by putting their hands into a more neutral position. They gave us a copy to review. Our verdict? Comfortable to hold, but a little awkward to use.
The Penclic R2 looks like a regular mouse with a pen attached to it. The soft rubberized grip and the high-gloss plastic handle felt comfortable and well-made (for right-handed people). It comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts three months on a single charge, and saves energy by going to sleep after ten minutes of inactivity. A simple click brings it back to life quickly.
Because the pen is mounted on top of a platform, the Penclic R2 intuitively invites you to gyrate the pen around the pivot point. But alas, this doesn’t move the mouse cursor because the swivel is simply a free joint that gives flexibility as you move it. To move the cursor, you have slide the platform as you would a normal mouse. Once I got over that initial confusion, holding and moving the pen was quite a joy, actually. Gripping it like a pen gave the mouse cursor gentle fluidity with fingertip precision.
However, the Penclic R2 came with a few caveats. I found the scroll wheel extremely awkward to use, either having to release my pen grip to maneuver my middle finger to it, or stretching my index finger to reach it. Five other co-workers unanimously cited a similar frustration when I gave it to them to try. I can’t understand why the wheel wasn’t put directly on the pen itself, which seems like a much more natural position. Furthermore, the right click was higher up on the grip, designed for use with the index finger. So I had to stretch my index finger back and forth along the pen for left and right clicks. The middle click, which I often use for opening/closing tabs, was even further up than the right button click. Not exactly conducive to productivity. The two thumb buttons are for going forward and back, but are completely useless on a Mac, which don’t register these extra buttons.
When I gave it to a user who had mild carpal tunnel syndrome from mouse-induced repetitive strain injury (RSI), they told me that they found it very comfortable and easy to use (once past an initial learning curve). They often accidentally knocked the Penclic R2 over because it was so light, but they were okay with this, given that the unit’s low weight made it easier to handle. Regardless, by the end of the day, they felt the typical symptoms of numbness throughout their hands. So while this may be a good alternative to the typical mouse to reduce the chance of RSI, it certainly won’t be the cure.
All in all, we’re conflicted. The mouse is easy and comfortable to use, especially for those at risk of RSI. Unfortunately, the button layout is confusing and awkward. A more intuitive design would simplify into one left-clicking index finger and one right-clicking thumb, plus a center scrolling wheel. Oh wait, that looks like the ambidextrous Penclic R3. We haven’t reviewed that one yet, but it looks like a much more natural and easier to use peripheral than the R2.